|EM: You quit art school and
started your independent life at an early age. Being so young with bills
to pay, food to eat, and art supplies to buy, what kind of methods did you
take to hustle your way through life?
David Choe: Oh shit! Dun da dun da dun (intro to Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You" this the shit you hear in your head when you remember certain key moments in your life, or when you imagine yourself making a grand entrance walking into a room, itís the soundtrack you hear in your head, mine varies from paradise city to wave of mutilation.
Steady mobbing, taking anything and everything, I had many partners in crime and grime, like the old 38th street crew in Oakland not the ďnewĒ 38th street ,their a bunch of pussies, but mostly I flew solo, I was best friends with everyone at Kinko's and art stores in cities up and down the west coast, I was selling those thick art history books for half price out the back door to pay off tuition, I have enough art supplies to last me a few more years from those days, I was liberating canvases from Otis to Art academy painting over whack paintings, I put up ads to do work that no one wanted to do, like mercenary A-team stuff, like beat up ex-boyfriends and throw cakes in the new wife's face at her wedding, I put fliers in between magazines at the newsstand and bookstores. We would make sandwiches inside Safeway and eat a cake in the beer aisle, we robbed every single frat house and supermarket in Berkeley for two years, I was taking more credits than allowed and classes that I wasnít supposed to, because I had a feeling early on that I wasnít gonna stay the whole 4 years, so I learned to forge my counselors signature, Barron Storey very early on, I was going to school 7 in the morning till 10 at night, doing my homework, bombing neighborhoods, going on late night bike rides, roof hopping, pranking, scamming, and still had enough time and energy to get home to finish my homework and f**k, before school the next day non stop on the move and brainstorming I was so f**king skinny back then, I t was like a rollercoaster , we broke open parking meters the steets were paved in quarters Like all good things it came crashing down when after two years of terrorizing the east bay, three of us got thrown in jail, and I had sex with all the girls in the house, and lots of feelings got hurt, so with my first adult felony
And a sex scandal behind me, plus family, health, and financial problems, mounting, my world turned upside down overnight, and I packed it in, dropped out, and returned home to Los Angeles for the next 4 years.
I took what I wanted , I did what I had to do.
But that time was not so long ago, and it was really a stereotypical struggling starving artist scenario, but I have enough angst and strife from those years and high school, to fuel me for the next twenty years, even though so much of it was ruff and tuff ,it really was some good fucking times
EM: Every artist has their fans as well as their haters. What are your haters like and what seems to be the focal point of their hate?
DC: Bullshit. In the last four years, Iíve been out here trying to make a living writing and making art, real shit. Honest shit from the heart. And I think people arenít used to that, since we all been lied to by everyone since birth, or they donít respond well to it or donít know how. So because of the things Iíve drawn on walls or written in books and magazines, Itís not rare for me to get death threats or threats through e-mail , which is f**king one of the worst curses ever. Because most people can't live without the internet that wasnít even really around ten years ago, and now there is no socializing or communicating with a live person, so, so much gets lost in between the lines, lots of room for misinterpretation, I try to limit my time on the web if possible, it can be damaging. There's also a lot of people that are jealous and they donít do shit or are whack, and just sit around with nothing but time and hatred on their hands. Do something get the f**k out of my face, the people that I've never met in my life that talk so much trash and bullshit, who are you? What's wrong with you? No one whoís ever met and known me can say Iím not a straight up guy, Iíll f**king shoot you straight. I might sound like an asshole because I paint on peoples things without asking and take things without asking, but trust me you donít know shit. Two of the biggest sources of bullshit in my life, was about two years ago I was getting ready to leave L.A. to move to Oakland again. An editor at Marvel Comics flew out to L.A. and she asked me if I wanted to draw a mature themed version of the x-men, now I had thrown out all my dreams of working on my childhood comic books a long time ago, but when it was them coming to me, I dropped everything and started drawing comics again, I was well into the first book, when I had heard about book being dropped in a most unprofessional manner being, everyone knew about it except for me who was still in my room whistling and drawing the f**king thing, being extremely pissed off for wasting my time and energy, I directed it towards the editor in chief of marvel comics, and wrote him the funniest meanest f**k you letter, which then got blasted on message boards and bullshit, and every Marvel zombie and Marvel artist on the planet was writing me and telling me my careers over, Iíll never work in this town again, they're gonna kill me, I donít know how to draw, and all other kinds of bullshit.
Funny thing is I never counted on Marvel for income in the first place, and if theyíre gonna be that un-courteous who wants to work for them anyways, actually to be honest that really wasnít frustrating it was more fun and entertaining than anything. But it did pretty much ban me from marvel and I can probably never get to draw or write Hulk, Spiderman, Punisher, or Wolverine, which I grew up reading so I guess thatís somewhat a loss, but thereís ways around that Iím crafty, Iíll just add to my list of new identities. Also DC called right after that and I did a cover for one of their books FIGHT FOR TOMORROW so that was pretty funny, right after that incident I was visiting L.A. I drove past the L.A. county museum of art, and I know I saw a Barry Mcgee Face thorough the bushes, so I pulled a u-turn and went inside the parking lot, it was like 3 in the morning and the entire lot was bombed by Margaret Kilgallen (who had not yet passed away), and Barry Mcgee in my mind two of the greatest street artists of our time, It was mind-blowing I spent like the next two hours just walking through finding drawings and paintings in every nook and cranny, back then I was painting on wood bus benches and and any other surface I found on the street, so when I found this big rusted metal panel up against this coke machine, I thought score! When I picked it up and saw the Barry and Margaret painting on the other side I was blown away. I understand, the feeling of loving and admiring something so much and being so broke but you just have to have it. It was only up until last year that I didn't have a show where someone didnít steal one of my paintings, but I always had a different understanding of the streets which was fair game. If I put up something on the street and itís gone the next day or painted over oh well thatís how it goes.
Anyways cut to a year later and I find out the art in the parking lot was actually commissioned by LACMA, Margaret has passed away from cancer, and that was the last painting the two ever did together. And in the meantime here it is sitting in my room, with a painting I added to it, because thatís what I do I love people painting on top and over me and vice versa but this has gotten me into more trouble than good, but f**k thatís how I do battle that how skills are displayed, when I saw a painting in Steve Martinís Collection at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, of a Matisse painting that Picasso took ands painted right on top of, I was on the floor, Picasso was a graffiti artist. I had a photo of the Barry, Margaret piece in my last art book "Bruised Fruit" with a quote that was all out of love, reverence and respect, but I wrote that book in one sitting in one night with out editing like everything else I do and it was misinterpreted by a lot of people, and so I was getting a lot of hate mail, a true testament to how much Barry and Margaret are loved, from artists, gallery owners, and fans, but mostly the hate was coming from f**king idiots, and up until that time I had only spoken to Barry through fax, and he seemed really cool, and these people who were claiming to be homies with Barry were like, "Barry f**king hates you heís wished you were dead," and I was like really? He didnít strike me at all that way, he actually, seemed a lot more cool and understanding, I had even sent him a fax before any of this, the second I heard his wife had passed if he wanted that I had the piece and he wanted it back, or if I should sell it and send him the money. so I was bummed out for a long time after that knowing that somewhere out there one of my favorite artists that I look up to hated me and thought I was an asshole, but not too much later I saw him on the street in San Francisco with his new beautiful baby, and we squashed the beef, cleared shit up, he said, that piece was like whatever, that he didn't even like it, but for obvious reasons it was very sentimental now. So he has the piece back now and itís all good between us, so now I have piece of mind and anyone who calls or tries to cause more bullshit in my life over that incident, me and Barry are good so they can all go to hell.